What to Do in Kensington: Our Expert Guide
Staying in Kensington and wondering how to spend your days? We've got you covered with this great neighbourhood guide.
Heading to London and planning to stay in Kensington? With more garden squares than an al fresco geometry class, Kensington will woo you with its pristine porch-fronted Victorian terraces, seduce you with its museums, and refuse to let you go home without a nightcap. Hailed as the ‘Royal Borough’ in 1901, upper class families flocked here to form the most elite of neighbourhoods, and a wealth of appropriately stylish (read: expensive) shops and restaurants popped up to keep them all happy. The buildings are kept wonderfully pristine and a host of parks provide a slice of solace on a sunny afternoon. Wander around with no plans and get lost in its architecture or dress up to the nines and dine at a top restaurant. Whatever you fancy, Kensington has it all...
Here's Plum Guide's insider guide to what to do in Kensington and all you need to know about the Royal Borough.
Enjoy a leisurely morning
If you can bear to tear yourself away from your cosy Plum bed early enough, join the locals and go for a spin or yoga class at Core Collective. Muscles flexed and ready for a day of culture and coffee, head out for brunch. You’re spoilt for choice in this neighbourhood, but we'd recommend the pesto Benedict at Ffiona’s to set you up for the day. If you’re feeling a little more indulgent, go for ‘Star Trek & Oreo’ pancakes at My Old Dutch on the high street. You're on holiday after all.
Now to work all that off by wandering around the expansive lawns of Hyde Park and the Japanese-inspired Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. Grab a take out coffee from Cafe Phillies, and embrace the zen amongst the lanterns, waterfalls and peacocks. If you’re closer to Kensington Gardens, the former private gardens to the palace, seek out the Elfin Oak, a 900-year-old oak tree, which is home to some mischievous looking elves and gnomes.
Then enjoy an indulgent afternoon
Now on to some more indulgence. We all know a stay in London just wouldn’t be complete without afternoon tea, so head to The Ivy Kensington between 3-5pm every day for some fine tea and cake in even finer art-deco surroundings. Or if you want something a little more quaint and quintessential, go to Candella Tea Room. Stop by Maitre Choux for their rather good éclairs. Each one is gloriously decorated, but trust us when we say you’ll have no problem tucking straight into one.
Do some serious shopping
Arrive at your Plum home like Bewitched with half empty suitcases, or be prepared to buy a new one (and thank us later) because when it comes to what to do in Kensington, shopping comes rather high up on that list. It's one of the best neighbourhoods in London for shopping, where you'll find some of the city's most iconic department stores, with Harrods and Harvey Nichols just down the road in Knightsbridge. They're great, of course, but in our opinion the real gems lie in Kensington’s surrounding boutiques. If you want to snap up a designer piece on a budget (meaning you can buy twice as much), head over to Sign of the Times. It's essentially a second-hand shop, but they specialise in only reselling high-end designer pieces. Prepare for two whole floors of Chanel, Versace, Prada, Gucci and Christian Louboutin, all for a fraction of the cost. Further towards Chelsea, you’ll find a whole strip of boutiques towards along the King’s Road. Yes, it’s long, but it’s been designed with shopping in mind by filling itself with so many boutiques. You’ll find a tonne of great cafes like L’ETO for resting your feet (and arms). If you’re more of an interior shopper, check out Mint for cool contemporary and one-off pieces or Andrew Martin for eclectic international furniture.
Get a serious culture fix
If you’re a museum lover, staying in one of our bright and beautiful homes in Kensington is a must. Science, history, art, design, you name it and Kensington’s got it. Run around, soak it up and saturate that brain of yours with as much culture as it can take. What’s best is that they’re all so close together, so if you're really up for the challenge you could probably get round them all in a day. Start with the Design Museum in Holland Park, which hosts a mixture of exhibitions, which even non-design buffs will enjoy. Move on to Leighton House Museum just a short walk down the road to see stunning interiors worthy of a place on Plum Guide. Then head to the V&A to see their free collection of art and design, as well as a rotating schedule of incredibly original exhibitions. And if you’re still standing sans blisters after all of that, head to the Science and Natural History Museums to see dinosaurs, robots and more interactive things that’ll have kids and adults alike running around with shameless glee. Regardless of long you’re in Kensington, a trip to one of London's greatest landmarks, the Royal Albert Hall is well worth it. The hall host a variety of events from regular gigs through to film screenings with live orchestras. With ornate architecture and near perfect acoustics, it’s always a treat for the eyes and the ears.
Go grocery shopping
If you’re a serious foodie staying in a Plum residence with a serious kitchen, you’ll want to use it, so pay a visit to La Cave a Fromage in Cromwell Place for the best cheese in London. There’s also a Wholefoods on the high street, serving every organic product you could ever want. And if you fancy the most authentic croissants and baguettes outside of France, go to Orée Boulangerie on Fulham Road. Bon app !
Dine out in style
Ok, so you are a foodie but you don’t want to cook? We hear you. The Kensington restaurant scene is as good as they come so if we were you, we’d try and fit in as many in as possible. Book a table at Babylon for dinner where you’ll get great skyline views over the city. Like many great restaurants in London, it does cost a bit more than a few shillings to eat there, but it’s a wonderful experience nevertheless. Alternatively, Daphne’s is a delightful swanky Italian with stately surroundings. With a roaring fire during the winter, it’s all too easy to feel dangerously at home. As is the case with Maggie Jones’s, albeit with a much more ‘farmhouse’ feel. Pots, pans and wicker line the walls of this cosy British haunt, where we'd recommend you try a pie or the lamb. Go for traditional pierogi at Ognisko – a restaurant on the bottom floor of a swanky Polish community club. (It goes without saying that you must end the meal with a vodka, so don't say we didn't warn you.)
Treat yourself to a tipple or two
After dinner, you'll probably want to end the evening with a nightcap at one of Kensington’s tempting drinking holes. It would be rude not to if you ask us. The Churchill Arms is London’s most decorated (and Instagram famous) pub, hiding under a camouflage of flowers. Inside, you'll need to mind your head – low-hanging antiques and dim lighting give this place its unique atmosphere. It’s always busy (as you'd expect), but cramming into one of its nooks is all part of the charm. If wine’s your poison, try Vini Italiani. Shop by day and bar by night, expect to say ‘oh go on, just one more’ on more than just one occasion. If you're celebrating something special like a birthday in London, opt for some fancy cocktails. Head to Chelsea institution Bluebird on the King’s Road, or drink yourselves back to the 1920s at Barts – a fun, hidden speakeasy with impressively novel cocktails and prohibition era music and decor. And if a couple of nightcaps have left you wanting to dance the night away, try Piano bar on Kensington High Street for the best piano singalong in the city. You could also try Notting Hill Arts Club, a rough-around-the-edges basement venue playing music from soul, house and indie to reggae and hip-hop.
Frankly, we could go on and on (and on) with our guide to what to do in Kensington, but we'll leave it at that and let you discover the rest for yourself when you arrive. Before that can happen though, you'll need to decide on your ideal Plum home in Kensington. We only list the top 3% of vacation homes on our site, because you deserve only the cream of the crop.